What Property Owners and Managers Need to Know

The City of Detroit Water and Sewer Department (DWSD) recently rolled out changes to its storm water treatment system and the drainage fees that are charged to land owners. As this has the potential to greatly impact our partners, Cinnaire has kept a close eye on this issue as it has unfolded.

These changes became critical as the previous system was inefficient in collecting enough fees to pay the $151 million annual cost incurred by DWSD as a result of storm water treatment.¹  The new billing system is meant to solve this problem while also supplementing the $1.5 billion investment the City of Detroit made to upgrade their water treatment facilities to meet federal regulations.²

The new drainage charge is calculated using GIS mapping services to determine what percentage of properties are impervious. The impervious surface area of each property is multiplied by a drainage charge per acre.³  However, using such a new system with such a large city means there are bound to be errors. A cursory review performed by Cinnaire identified several properties with problematic calculations, and the process of disputing these charges is quite strenuous, requiring an adjustment application, fee, and copious documentation.4

The transition period for these charges is ending soon and by July, 2018 all residents are expected to receive their first bill. Since appeals are not retroactive, it is incredibly important to review this information early to limit the cost of any calculation errors. In addition, it is the residents’ responsibility to claim any Green Credits, which are given to properties that install green storm water infrastructure, like rain gardens or detention areas.5 As many of our partners in the area are affected and the issue of increasing water prices develops across the nation, we recommend taking a moment to browse the resources listed below to learn more.6

NOTE: Some of the information listed on the DWSD website may be out of date – if you have specific questions, please direct them to Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. (If by phone, make sure to ask for a Drainage Customer Care Specialist.) P: (313) 267-8000 E: drainage@detroitmi.gov


1 WXYZ “How driveways, parking lots are changing the cost of Detroit water bills”

2 DWSD “Myths and Facts”

3 DWSD “A Guide to the Drainage Charge”

4 DWSD “A Guide to the Drainage Charge Bill Adjustment”

5 DWSD “A Guide to Drainage Charge Credits”

6  Cinnaire’s Map of Stormwater Fees Across the U.S.

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